‘80s Movie Soundtrack Songs: Action/Adventure Edition

From uplifting and inspirational sing-along choruses, to metal-tinged hard rock bangers, to fist-pumpingly catchy love songs, action/adventure flicks of the '80s were responsible for an absolute treasure trove of soundtrack gold. For the purposes of this list, I'm avoiding a few mandatory selections that have already been featured in our '80s montage music piece (such as Robert Tepper's "No Easy Way Out," for example), so here are 11 other essential cuts to get you fired up and ready to roll...

Stubblefield & Hall, "Best of the Best," from Best of the Best (1989)

Q: "What does it take to turn five uncontrollable characters into one unbeatable team?"

A: This song, as far as I'm concerned.

The theme song from the martial arts flick of the same name starring Eric Roberts, James Earl Jones, and Chris Penn (R.I.P.), among others, "Best of the Best" centers around an infectiously catchy chorus, but it's kind of a tough-ass tune, too! And who the hell are Stubblefield & Hall!? Is it really true that this masterpiece was their only collaboration!? Say it ain't so!

Uplifting Chorus

Put yourself to the test
Be the best of the best
The best of the best
Be the best you can be
The best of the best

Stan Bush, "Fight to Survive," from Bloodsport (1988)

"Fight to Survive" is the key track from Bloodsport—perhaps Jean-Claude Van Damme's finest hour, facing off against the mighty Bolo Yeung in the Kumite. Strangely enough, the piece was also recorded with Paul Delph on vocals (I believe Delph's rendition is featured in the film itself); but the original, full-length version features the ever-so-slightly-gruffer Stan Bush, so that's what I'm including. That random solo in the middle of the song's almost gotta be a keytar, right? Please tell me it's a keytar...

Uplifting Chorus

I'm taking hold of every moment
Given strength by the breath of life
I'm gonna stake my claim
I fight to survive

Stan Bush, "Never Surrender," from Kickboxer (1989)

Or, is this JCVD's finest hour—avenging his brother's paralysis at the hands of another wicked badass in Michel Qissi (both of whom appear as extras in Breakin', by the way), kicking trees and dancing drunk along the way? Tough call. Either way, Stan Bush delivers again with "Never Surrender"—somewhat comparable to "The Touch," his contribution to The Transformers: The Movie three years prior.

Uplifting Chorus

Never surrender
Never say die
You've got the heart of a hero
Never surrender
Keep it alive
You're standin' strong in the eye of a storm
Something keeps pushing you on
To never surrender
Never surrender

Paul Gilreath & Joe Torono, "Stand on Your Own," from No Retreat, No Surrender (1985)

Three in a row from Jean-Claude Van Damme (this time the villain)? His movies consistently featured kick-ass songs, that's all there is to it. "Stand on Your Own" bears some similarities to "Eye of the Tiger," and that keyboard run after the chorus should've been used in the freakin' olympics or something—it's damn near up there with Giorgio Moroder's work in Over the Top! Sadly, like Stubblefield & Hall, vocalist Joe Torono remains a mystery. Is it possible that he did nothing more than two songs on this soundtrack!?

Uplifting Chorus

Stand on your own
There's no retreat, there's no surrender
Stand on your own
For you must do what your heart tells you
Stand on your own
And when your dreams and your frustrations work themselves through
There'll be no stopping you

Sammy Hagar, "Winner Takes it All," from Over the Top (1987)

For Sylvester Stallone's greatest film to ever combine arm wrestling and truck driving, they absolutely loaded the soundtrack—among others, with Larry Greene, Frank Stallone, Asia, Giorgio Moroder, Eddie Money, and, of course, Kenny Loggins. That being said, you simply can't vote against The Red Rocker's "Winner Takes it All." Eddie Van Halen plays bass (and also contributed to the writing, as did Giorgio Moroder), and... shit, Hagar even arm wrestles Stallone in the video!

Uplifting Chorus

Winner takes it all
Loser takes a fall
Fight to the beginning of the end
Winner takes it all
Until he breaks the fall
In time he'll make it over the top

Helix, "It's Too Late," from Iron Eagle (1986)

Longstanding (and still active) Canadian act Helix has amassed quite a discography since the '70s, and for me, this straightforward, catchy, metal-tinged hard rock jam is among their all-time highlights. Just one of many killer songs on the soundtrack for this Jason Gedrick/Louis Gossett Jr. classic, alongside the title track, "Old Enough to Rock and Roll," "Road of the Gypsy," etc.

Ruffians, "Wasteland," from American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (1987)

Michael Dudikoff had one of the coolest names of the '80s, so it's only fitting that he makes an appearance on this list, thanks to the inclusion of this flawlessly written metal tune from Bay Area 'bangers Ruffians amidst the American Ninja franchise. The band released a 12" EP in 1985 and saw a few reissue collections pop up in the 2000s, but you will be absolutely shocked to learn that Ruffians reformed in 2004, and have since released a full-length album and toured periodically!?

The Power Station, "We Fight for Love," from Commando (1985)

The end credits of this Arnold Schwarzenegger masterwork are graced with this simple and repetitive number from supergroup The Power Station. Originally consisting of Robert Palmer, Andy and John Taylor (Duran Duran), and Tony Thompson (Chic), Palmer had already bailed when this song was written, replaced by Michael Des Barres. So, yes... this track features the added bonus of having been sung by the dude who played Murdoc in MacGyver. Holy shit! "We Fight for Love" totally should've been a single, but the band had dissolved by the end of 1985. A damn shame.

John Parr, "Restless Heart (Running Away With You)," from The Running Man (1987)

John Parr racked up one hell of a soundtrack résumé with contributions to American Anthem, Quicksilver, Near Dark, Three Men and a Baby, and of course the mega-hit title track from St. Elmo's Fire. And then there's this high-octane love song from yet another Schwarzenegger gem. (Its B-side, "Crystal Eye," totally rules, too.)

John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band, "Hearts on Fire," from Rocky IV (1985)

Both Survivor's and Robert Tepper's outstanding contributions to Rocky IV came up in our aforementioned montage collection, and are obviously the best songs from the film. Still, "Hearts on Fire" is no damn slouch: soaring vocals, zesty guitar/keyboard interplay, and motivational lyrics that speak of "burnin' with determination to even up the score." Sold!

Robert Tepper, "Angel of the City," from Cobra (1986)

Speaking of Robert Tepper, "No Easy Way Out" it ain't, but the darker and more restrained "Angel of the City" is certainly the highlight track from yet another badass pic from Stallone. (Both songs also appeared on Tepper's very solid debut album in 1986.)

I'm sure there are more*, so as always I wholly encourage you to toss some recommendations into the comments below. Please!

*Just for the record, other worthy contenders that are being reserved for a future piece unrelated to action films would be Gregg Allman (Black Rain), Patrick Swayze (Roadhouse), and The Coupe de Villes (Big Trouble in Little China)—but that list won't take take shape until later this year!

SEE ALSO: '80s Movie/TV Soundtrack Songs: Random & Obscure Edition


  1. All excellent choices, I still jam John Parr weekly. Couple additions.……………

    5.26.2015 | By Benny

  2. Dan Reed Network RULES. Most of these movies wouldn’t necessarily classify as action/adventure, though, would they? Heh. Still, solid selections, and thanks for including them, as always!

    5.26.2015 | By Andrew Aversionline

  3. Dae Han seemed so menacing in “Best of the Best” when I first saw it. Just a ruthless, one-eyed, murder machine. Also, Eric Roberts’ overacting is absolutely off the charts and I couldn’t love it more. Excellent piece!

    5.26.2015 | By -RoG-

  4. The number of images of Eric Roberts crying that come back in a Google image search for “eric roberts best of the best” is pretty fantastic. Also, his hair in the movie is absolutely off the charts and I couldn’t love it more.

    5.26.2015 | By Andrew Aversionline

  5. Don’t forget John Cafferty wrote the Eddie & The Cruisers stuff too.

    5.26.2015 | By Matt

  6. However no workout montages in that one. Just flashbacks I believe.

    5.26.2015 | By Matt

  7. Love all these tracks and the domination of JCVD.

    5.26.2015 | By Matt

  8. This list is everything.

    5.29.2015 | By Carlos Ramirez